Hinterland dairy producers get proactive over Foot and Mouth threat

By Sonia Isaacs

MALENY’S dairy industry said it was being proactive by cancelling events and some interactions with international visitors due to the risk of foot and mouth disease, saying an outbreak would be worse than the GFC and Covid combined.

An outbreak of FMD in Indonesia has the industry and authorities fearful that travellers could unwittingly bring the disease into Australia and devastate the $80 billion livestock industry.

As a precautionary measure local events featured as part of the Curated (Side) Plate festival, including The Third Plate long table lunch and Celebrating Maleny’s Dairy Producers, were cancelled earlier this week.

Maleny Dairies’ Ross Hopper said he had already stopped guided tours and heightened their internal bio-security protocols as a way of mitigating risk to local farmers and animals.

“The industry would be written off if there was an outbreak here – it’d be worse than the effects of the GFC and Covid combined for Australia on a mammoth scale,” Ross told GC&M News.

“It would totally destroy the Australian industry – we’d be back to exporting Roos.”

“We want to be proactive and don’t want to risk our farms, other farmers or be a super spreader of it if it did accidentally turn up here, so we are just minimising the risk here until the Government has it under control and then we can get back into business.

“We want to be on the front foot. We don’t want to overreact but then again, we don’t want to be the twits that did nothing and wrecked it for Australia, as we understand just how serious it is.

“We get a lot of international tourists who get off the plane and often we’re their first stop on their way to another event.”

Sara Bucher from Obi Obi Dairy and Maleny Cheese said it was disappointing but necessary to withdraw the events from the Curated Plate festival.

“These were events that were being hosted on farms during winter, the peak time this highly contagious disease spreads,” she said.

“While the risk of it entering Australia is currently very low, we fully support our colleagues Maleny Dairies and Maleny Food Co with the decision to withdraw.”

Sunshine Coast Council Division 2 Councillor Terry Landsberg said the council respected the decision of the local organisers and appreciated the importance of biosecurity.

“The good news is there are still plenty of locations, activities, menus and price points to suit everyone, and many hidden gems to surprise visitors and locals,” Cr Landsberg said.

“I encourage everyone to taste a bit of the Sunshine Coast and support our local businesses and producers given there are more than 400 food tourism operators on the Sunshine Coast.”